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Tuesday, 15 June 2010
Page: 3346

Senator WORTLEY (7:37 PM) —I rise tonight to pay tribute to a very talented South Australian journalist, the late Murray Nicoll. I knew Murray for 14 years and recently had the honour of inducting him into the South Australian Media Hall of Fame at the South Australian Media Awards. Murray Nicoll was a highly skilled, good humoured, humble and brave journalist. His commitment to the profession was evident to all who knew him or who were familiar with his work. From his on-the-spot reporting of the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires, while his family home burnt to the ground before his eyes, to his unique take on stories that others often missed and to his mentoring of young journalists, he was and is a credit to the profession. His bravery went beyond risking his life to let others know of the extreme dangers within the Adelaide Hills during those horrific bushfires. It extended into all of his reporting, in choosing to do things the right way, sometimes the hard way, instead of taking the easy option.

Murray’s personality endeared him to all he met, although he never shied away from a tough interview when necessary. He was both genuine and professional, preferring to say it exactly as he saw it, rather than hiding behind nonsense. It was this aspect of his personality that shone through his journalism. It earned him the respect of his peers and a loyal following from readers and audiences. In separate tributes, South Australian Premier Mike Rann described Murray as a ‘great journo’ and a ‘good bloke’ who ‘liked a story with a twist but never twisted a story’. Channel 7 news director Terry Plane said Murray was a ‘unique storyteller’ rather than a reporter.

Murray was outstanding in all three mediums—print, radio and television. He told people’s stories and also led us into the wider issues, including the plight of the Murray River. Over his 45-year career, he worked at the Adelaide news, ABC radio in Adelaide and 3AW in Melbourne. For the past five years, he worked for Channel 7 news in Adelaide.

In his most famous radio broadcast, that unforgettable 1983 report from Greenhill, Murray captured the fury of the fire front and the absolute urgency and tragedy of the moment. It has become a legendary piece of Australian journalism. On Stateline, 20 years later, Murray recalled the terror of the situation as he and ABC cameraman Dusan Jonic were trapped on Yarrabee Road with a dozen locals and firefighters. Murray said:

I was quite certain we were going to die, so I started broadcasting through the newsroom, live on the air, at 5DN, because I thought if we were going to die, people’ve got to know about it, because nobody knew what was going on up here at the time.

Murray said he called through on a two-way radio to 5DN to go live to air only to be told he would have to wait another 30 seconds because the horses had jumped at Flemington. Ever the professional, he waited and then delivered one of the most graphic reports in the history of Australian journalism. It went around the world.

Deservedly, Murray won his first Walkley Award for the broadcast. He won a second Walkley for his work during an expedition to Mount Everest, during which he filed radio reports every day for six weeks. The two Walkleys say a lot about the talent of the journalist, but Murray should also be remembered for his continued commitment and enthusiasm—and his ability to find a story on the slowest of news days. Beyond this commitment to his craft, Murray also dedicated his own time to promoting excellence in journalism through his involvement with awards and activities dedicated to this outcome. He was a proud member of the Australian Journalists Association section of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance.

Murray left this world on Sunday, 2 May, aged 66—way too soon. He leaves behind his wonderful wife, Frankie, daughters Tia and Peta, beautiful grandson Ranger and new granddaughter Kestrel, who by arriving eight weeks early was able to meet her outstanding grandfather.